Mark C. Curran: Candidate profile, U.S. Senate
In the race for the U.S. Senate, former Lake County sheriff Mark Curran Jr., a Libertyville Republican, is challenging incumbent Dick Durbin of Springfield, a Democrat.
Three third-party candidates also share the ballot: philanthropist and businessman Willie Wilson of Chicago, Libertarian Danny Malouf of Crystal Lake and Green Party candidate David Black of Rockford.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates to respond to a series of questions. David Black did not complete a questionnaire.
Q. What has Donald Trump's unconventional leadership taught us about politics in the United States? What is the best thing his presidency has done? What is the most significant criticism you have of it?
A. Politics in the United States is more divided than any other time I can remember. It's not a result of Donald Trump, but Donald Trump is a product of it. He's a businessman who, against all odds, mounted a huge comeback. And that acumen has helped him and his administration oversee historic job growth, record-breaking stock market gains and, most importantly, has been a huge gain for the middle class. He is the most middle class-focused president of the last 50 years. And although COVID-19 has impacted our economy, job growth, and stock market, we've seen it start to bounce back (again) under President Trump's leadership.
The gains for middle class Americans is his greatest accomplishment. For decades, Democrats were the party of the middle class. Now, under President Trump, we're seeing a shift and witnessing those Reagan Democrats and blue-collar workers understand that their true home is within the Republican Party. I don't think that would have happened without President Trump. I would prefer he wouldn't spend so much time with unnecessary personal attacks or the need to "punch down."
Q. Many critics of governmental process complain that both Barack Obama and Donald Trump governed too much through executive orders rather than in collaboration with Congress. Is our system in danger of veering toward authoritarianism? From a structural standpoint, does Congress need to place stronger limits on the power of the presidency? If so, be specific on what some of those limits might be. If not, please explain your view.
A. No, our country has not recently been "veering toward authoritarianism." The truth is, the executive branch, and specifically the presidency, has been growing in the use of Executive Orders with every administration since FDR. Generally, it is not a problem. However, we've fought a lot of unnecessary wars since World War II.
I was against the Iraq War because it did not meet the moral litmus test of a "just war." Specifically, our mission did not have a "high probability of success." I was a Constitutional Law professor and I taught my students that Americans have lost liberty when any one of the branches exceeds their constitutional authority. Congress' check on the Executive is one of its most vital powers. We need Congress to ensure it exerts its authority to declare war and push back against the executive branch, regardless of which party controls the House.
Furthermore, Congress has the power to impeach for "high crimes and misdemeanors." We've witnessed what happens when Congress moves toward a politically driven impeachment process that does not conclude with the removal of a sitting president.
Q. Protesters have massed in the streets throughout America calling for greater social justice. How significant a role does systemic racism play in limiting equal opportunity in America? To the degree that it exists, what should be done about it? Do you favor reparations? Should police be "defunded?"
A. Police have been scapegoated for racism in America, and as someone who has spent 30 years in law enforcement, I find it be unjust. By and large, law enforcement officers are not racist. Prosecutors are not racist. And judges are not racist. Those who enforce the laws are doing just that, enforcing the laws. They're not writing them. If your problem is with the enforcement of certain laws then take issue with the senators, congressmen, state legislators, county board commissioners, and city council members that draft and pass laws and ordinances that members of law enforcement merely enforce.
I'm running for U.S. senator for many reasons, but I believe this question contrasts my unique background and experience with my opponents. When working toward reforming law enforcement there is no one more qualified than someone who has spent 30 years as both a prosecutor and sheriff.
Now, with regards to racism outside of law enforcement or racism at large, I believe there's inadequate funding of schools and housing within minority communities. As sheriff, I worked with minority communities to foster better understanding and to ensure their voices were heard.
Q. Does today's climate of polarization reflect a natural and necessary ebb and flow in the tone of civic debate? Or does it reflect a dangerous divide? What, if anything, should be done about it?
A. We're a divided nation, there's no doubt about it. There are passionate arguments on both sides of the aisle. Many Americans feel certain rights are bestowed upon them from their Creator, not from government, and thus those rights are not up for debate. Others believe government should provide. While it may seem like today's climate signals a future of dangerous divide, I believe what binds us is greater than what divides us.
A healthy, free Republic views open, robust debate as a crucial part of society, not something that should be discouraged. We must ensure the healthy exercise of the First Amendment, peaceful protests and rigorous debate while rejecting violence and divisiveness that further seeks to fracture our great nation. When protests extend beyond what's civil and ordinary and becomes criminal and violent, then those who enable and commit such acts should be held accountable.
Q. Is there a "cancel culture" in America?
A. Absolutely, look at what's happened to the Christopher Columbus statue in Grant Park. Our shared American history is no longer being taught in schools. Hence, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of history, and that contributes to unnecessary outrage over the difference of opinions. We should welcome robust, open debate. We should respect others' differing opinions, while striving toward a better tomorrow for ourselves, our children, and our country's future.
However, it's proven time and time again that "cancel culture" is more prevalent on the Left. That is not a path we want to continue down. Because words, no matter how harmful or hateful, are not violence. Especially those opinions that may differ from our own. Children need to learn to respect opinions that are different from their own.
Finally, for opinions that are so repugnant and reprehensible, the best disinfectant is the exposing light that forces those views into the public square and allow for widespread condemnation, regardless of party affiliation.
Q. What do you see as the most important issues to address regarding immigration reform? If you oppose funding for a wall, what steps do you support to try to control illegal immigration?
A. First, I want to remind those who may be unfamiliar with my background that I have been a proponent of immigration reform since 2009. There are many documented instances of my advocacy for the immigrant communities while I served as sheriff. I gave countless speeches and public statements advocating for immigration reform while ensuring border security. I believe there should be some type of permanent status for those here legally, who haven't committed crimes other than their status. However, that should be part of a bigger package.
I support a border wall, but also believe we need to increase the number of Customs and Border Patrol agents and ICE agents. We should also be implementing other 21st century measures like drone patrols and increased thermal imaging over our Southern and Northern borders to ensure those wishing to enter our country do so the right way. We are a nation of laws and borders, and will not have a nation if we do not enforce our laws and protect our borders.
Q. Please define your position on health care reform, especially as it relates to the Affordable Care Act.
A. Our health care system must protect preexisting conditions. If I am elected to the United States Senate, I would study the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA has approximately 20,000 pages of regulations associated with the Act. I want to know what, if anything, is working in the ACA before deciding to replace or repeal the Act completely. I am not a proponent of a single payer health care system. Private industry has a better record of running business than the Federal government.
The problem with the cost of prescription drug prices is that they reflect more than the cost to produce the pill. According to the Tufts Center for the study of Drug Development, drugmakers spend, on average, $2.6 billion to develop and gain market approval for a new drug. The drugmaker needs to recover those costs and make a profit in order to have an incentive to continue to spend money on research and development. We may want to examine whether our drug companies are charging foreign countries enough.
Q. Should everyone wear a mask? Should our schools be open? What has the country done right about the pandemic? What has it done wrong? How optimistic are you that we'll ever get back to "normal?"
A. Yes. If a small business requires that you wear a mask, you should. However, we shouldn't mandate the wearing of a mask or PPE everywhere. The biggest issue since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the lack of debate on how to properly respond. There was no robust debate within the U.S. Senate. My opponent, the very definition of a Career Politician, spent the early days of the pandemic putting politics before the needs of the American people.
Our public schools should be moving to open and operating in person. As a father of three, with one still in high school, I worry about the impact that the long-term effects of the pandemic will have on our youth. I do believe we will return to "normal." We cannot let our fear of the unknown make us afraid of living our lives. We also cannot forget the root cause of this pandemic: China.
Unlike my opponent, who has served in Congress since 1983, I understand the threat China poses to our nation's security, safety, and currency. And we've witnessed their willingness to endanger the American people with little or no care as to the impact it will have. We must hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable.
Q. What do you consider America's role in world affairs? What are we doing correctly to fill that role? What else should we be doing?
A. No man is an island and no country can be alone in the world, either. We have a responsibility on some level to help those nations and people who are desperately in need. However, I am not in favor of nation building. That has been disastrous for our country and Americans as a whole. The failed Iraq and Afghanistan Wars should be a warning to not only future administrations and elected officials, but it can be corrected by today's public servants.
We've witnessed President Trump's willingness to end American-fought conflicts in the Middle East and to bring our men and women in uniform home. I applaud the president on the steps he's taken to do just that. However, our role in the world does not just include our involvement in foreign wars. It also includes bringing our humanity and assistance to those nations in genuine need. We must help developing nations when they need it and help those nations under genuine threat.
Humanitarian aid is a noble goal, but we must be wary of the "Military Industrial Complex" ideology that has dominated our foreign policy for far too long.
Q. Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should government be taking to address the issue?
A. I support the continued study of climate change. The Earth has undergone changes for as long as we know. I am not convinced that climate change is currently a threat to humankind. However, humans have suffered the negative effects of prior misuse of the planet. Although I do not believe the dire warnings that the end of the earth is imminent, we are still called to be good stewards. We can work to develop cleaner alternative fuel sources.
The Environmental Protection Agency serves an important purpose. Corporate polluters should be prosecuted and sent to prison. We need to protect our water supply. We need to continue to spend money to research climate issues and what can be done to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.
I am not a denier. The big questions should be the same for all Americans whether they believe this or not. What is man's role in contributing to the change of the climate? What corrective behavior could actually impact man's contribution to climate change? Hence, even if you don't believe man has contributed to climate change, reasonable corrective behaviors will lead to cleaner air, cleaner water, and a cleaner planet.
Q. What role does Congress play with regards to the growth of conspiracy theory groups like QAnon?
A. There are fringe groups who hold political affiliations on both sides of the aisle. No single party has a monopoly on conspiracy theories. Congress should work with the Department of Justice to ensure proper oversight of fringe elements when they pose a threat to our nation's security. Congress has the oversight powers to investigate and expose those elements that are dangerous to the Republic we hold dear.
We must ensure a person's First Amendment right while also ensuring those views do not become a threat to our great nation. And as a former county, state, and federal prosecutor and former three-term sheriff of Lake County, Illinois, I have the investigative and prosecutorial pedigree to combat fringe elements that have no place in the halls of Congress.